Exposure – 3/20/2021 – TRANSCRIPT FOR The Ronald McDonald House of Mid-Michigan

Connie Rahbany

Disclaimer: The contents of this interview do not reflect the values or represent the values of  WDBM The Impact.

Interview Transcript

Connie Rahbany: Hello and welcome to exposure. I’m your host, Connie Rahbany, and today I’m interviewing with Carolyn Hurst from the Ronald McDonald house of mid-Michigan. Thank you for joining me.

Carolyn Hurst: Thanks so much for having me.

Connie Rahbany: So can I have you introduce yourself and tell me a little bit about you?

Carolyn Hurst: Yeah. I’m Carolyn Hurst, the executive director of the Ronald McDonald house of mid-Michigan. I have been. Um serving at our house for nine years this year. And yeah, so I basically manage operations, oversee the day-to-day workings of the house, um, work with everything from board members to community engagement and development, fundraising, pretty much a little bit of everything. So, um, yeah, that’s me.

Connie Rahbany: And for those that don’t know what is the Ronald McDonald house of mid-Michigan and what is its goal?

Carolyn Hurst: The Ronald McDonald house of mid-Michigan is a hospitality house that is specific for serving families that have critically ill children receiving medical treatment in our local hospitals and clinics. Um, we are an eight bedroom house that is basically full service for the families that need us. Um, we provide private bedrooms and bathrooms and access to meals and onsite laundry. Basically everything you would have at your house. We have in ours. Um, most of the time families show up at our doorstep and they don’t plan to be there. Nobody plans to have a sick child or an injured child, or to give birth to a child earlier than expected. And so they usually show up with just whatever’s in their pockets or what they have in their car. Um, so we really step in and make sure that we connect them with resources and provide them with the space and, um, amenities they need to stay present at their child’s hospital bedside to ultimately help them heal and go home. Um, and all they have to worry about is that we take care of everything that they need.

Connie Rahbany:  Perfect. And you have an event coming up? It’s the annual Run for the House. What is that for those that don’t know?

Carolyn Hurst: The Run for the House is a annual, um, 5K, 10K, kids race. It’s offered to the community every year. The first one was in June of 2001, it was on the anniversary of the houses, um, opening. Um, so it’s a long standing event in this community. It started with about, um, 25 participants in the driveway of the House and is, in normal times. Um, if you take COVID out of it, normally we have between 800 to a thousand runners or participants each year. Um, so it’s grown significantly over the years, um, and all thanks to our community support and, um, Corporate partners and sponsors. So, um, we’re very fortunate for that. Um, it basically helps fund the house, provide much needed funds to ensure that we, um, continue to offer the home away from home for families that have children in our hospitals and clinics here in the mid Michigan area to make sure that our doors stay open for them.

Connie Rahbany: And so last year was the 20th anniversary of the house. And the 2020 run for the house event was in part of a celebration for that milestone. Could you talk more about that?

Carolyn Hurst: Yeah, it, it was a great plan. Um, we were so excited for our 20th anniversary. And we were able to celebrate in ways that were appropriate, but as everyone knows, COVID-19 arrived in Michigan in March. And that so happened to be, uh, just a couple of weeks before our annual run for the house event. Um, and so we definitely had to. Pivot to use that COVID buzzword to make sure that everything we offered to the community was safe. Um, and everything that we were doing for families was also safe. Um, so we did have to make quite a few changes to what we offered. We unfortunately canceled our event last year. But we were very grateful for our sponsors, partners and participants that were so inclined to continue to donate the funds towards that event. So we were able to continue our mission last year. And we, you know, had other celebrations, um, that, you know, were mostly virtual and you know, worked through social media to do a campaign for a 20th anniversary to help raise funds and just really share about what the house is and what it’s done over 20 years, where, you know, where we came from when the house wasn’t even there on the ground to where we are today and all of the stories of families that have come in and out of our house in that time. So it’s really, um, a good time of reflection I would say on just looking at the impact, the house has on families that come to our region, whether they’re local or whether they come from outlying, rural areas, or even beyond, um, to get specialized medical treatment for their children here right in Lansing.

Connie Rahbany: And this year, the 2021 run for the house race is on. How has COVID impacted the run even year later. And when is the race?

Carolyn Hurst: Yeah. So our run for the house this year is scheduled for, um, it’s over three days, actually. So it’s scheduled for Friday, March 26th through Sunday, the 28th, and typically the run for the house is a um, professionally timed, very large in-person event. Um, and at the Ronald McDonald house, it’s really our job to care for caregivers and families of ill children during the hardest times of their lives. Um, and the COVID-19 pandemic really hasn’t been an exception for us in that way. So that’s why this year, the run will take place anywhere that our joggers, walkers and participants feet will take them. Um, as I mentioned, we’re offering that three-day virtual, um, race, and then also we’re offering an open course option as well. So we made the decision, with the health and safety of our community in mind. And that’s ultimately what led us to the offerings we have planned this year. So we’ve not done a virtual or an open course option before, but we’re really leaning on the experience we’ve had over the past 20 years of executing a very large in person event to deliver some sense of normalcy, to the people that have stuck with us and continue to register throughout these times, even last year and into this year. And so with the two race options I mentioned, um, you can run virtually you can run literally from anywhere. We have people registered from the local community to other States in the U S and some overseas even. Um, so it’s fantastic to see the reach that this has been able to provide. And we also are offering, um, an open course this year. So that’s a new term. We’ve I think maybe we coined it. I’m not sure it’s something that’s kind of new in the area. Um, but our open course is going to be staged at MSUFCU’s headquarters in East Lansing.  Um so we’re very excited about that and their partnership and really, we couldn’t have done it without them. So we’re very grateful that they’re making their, um, beautiful headquarters campus available to us and the participants that will choose that option. Um, so runners that choose that option will have the opportunity to run the 5k or the 10 K and even the kids races on a pre-marked course. So you’re going to sign up and choose a specific timeframe our timeframes are capped at 50 people just to keep limits of gatherings to an acceptable amount. And, um, they’re like two-hour windows as well. So people can come and go during that time and really ensure that the spacing between participants is adequate. So this option, we really felt offers a bit of safe normalcy as large in-person events are really still paused in our community  and when you register and you choose a corral or a timeframe to run over the three-day period, if you choose the open course, you really are going to be able to get out there and experience the run for the houses maybe you always have. And so we’re really grateful for the opportunity to offer that, especially with coming off of last year of having to make a really difficult decision of canceling since we were so incredibly close to the time when COVID arrived in our state. So. Um, and then those that want to run virtually they can do it on a treadmill or in their neighborhood or in their favorite park and so both options, you keep track of your own performance time and upload it to our participation website and, um, awards and things of that nature will resume just like normal.

Connie Rahbany: And with that, who can get involved and how?

Carolyn Hurst: Yeah, really anybody can get involved. Um, whether you like to just walk or if you’re a professional or a very serious runner. Um, it’s really for everyone, it’s a family friendly event, but we have grown so much over the years that we definitely have catered to all of the different groups and levels of those that enjoy just getting out and experiencing a 5k type event. Um, so there’s really something for everyone at any pace, um, and any level. So whether you walk or run, um, it’s for you.

Connie Rahbany:  And you’ve been involved with this for a while, if you can describe your experience all in one word, what would it be and why?

Carolyn Hurst: Innovative, I would say, um, we’ve had so much growth over the nine years that I’ve been involved with this race. Um, it’s amazing to see really where we’ve come from and where we’re at today and how we’ve responded to changes and the feedback we’ve gotten from the community and just really setting the bar higher every year, making sure that we’re growing and offering new amenities and just offering a participant experience that makes people want to come back every year. And that really ultimately reflects what the mission of the house actually is. Um, and that’s really to serve people and give them an experience that they, um, are comfortable in while, you know, They’re in another, um, situation, you know, with their family. So, um, we always try to tie it back to that and lead that to guide us through all the decisions we make. And, and there were a significant group of people on our run planning committee. Prior to when I started that really got this off the ground. Um, and so without them, we certainly wouldn’t be where we are today. There’s a couple of them still involved. So there’s a handful of people that are still involved that, um, have a longer track record on that committee than I do. Um, and so it’s just great to see and, and really, um, just kind of holding it up on our end, just passing the Baton and, and keeping it going and running smoothly and really working towards bringing what they started and continuing it.

Connie Rahbany: You’re listening to WDBM East Lansing.  I’m Connie Rahbany, your host of Exposure. And today we’re talking to Carolyn Hurst from the Ronald McDonald house of mid-Michigan. So what can you tell me about the corporate sponsorship opportunities for the 2021 run for the house?

Carolyn Hurst: So we have lots of sponsorship opportunities. Um, it depends on the sponsor on what they’re looking for. Um, we definitely have packages set up that allow them to kind of look through and see what we offer, but we also offer custom sponsorships as well. So we always try to, um, you know, form a partnership and relationship with them and see how we can best work together and benefit each other and so there’s lots of opportunities whether, um, you know, we, we have this year due to COVID, we’re shipping all of our participant packets. So we had shipping sponsorships. They have offered to reduce shipping costs by giving participants a discount code, as well as stuffing and shipping all of our packets and printing some materials for us. So there’s lots of different kinds, whether it’s monetary or in kind. Um, we leverage all partnerships and it’s a very large event. I think a lot of people maybe don’t know that the Ronald McDonald house of mid Michigan puts on the run event themselves. So our staff and a handful of board members and community members come together to put this on every year. And we’re not a beneficiary of somebody else’s 5k. We actually plan every single detail ourselves. Um, and so the sponsorships and involvement in that way are very important to us. Um, and we definitely work very hard to make sure that there’s lots of different offerings for those that are interested in becoming involved.

Connie Rahbany: And if there’s anybody listening to this right now that is interested in getting involved, what would you like to say to them?

Carolyn Hurst:  Yeah, it depends if you are interested in becoming a participant, if you want to get out, enjoy the hopefully nice spring weather we’ll have on that weekend. Um, there’s opportunities to register right online. You can go to runsignup.com. Um, and search for run for the house and you’ll find us, or you can also go to the house’s website at www.rmhmm.org um, and go to our events page and find us there as well. Um, and same thing for sponsorships, if that’s of interest too, um, you can find information on both of those places as well, and reach out directly to the house. Call us, email us. We’ll get you connected with the right people.

Connie Rahbany: All right. And is there anything else that you’d like to add that I might not have asked you about?

Carolyn Hurst: I’d say we’re just extremely grateful for all of the participants and sponsors that have come together this year. And even through last year that continue to support us through this, um, ultimately participation, whether it’s, um, you know, running or walking or sponsoring, um, or donating. It really goes back to ensuring that the families that have children in the hospital or receiving medical treatment have resources, amenities available to them, um, to keep them as comfortable as possible while they go through that situation. And so ultimately that’s what it goes back to. Um, And we’re just so grateful that people continue to see the mission through the event and really come together to support us at this time, especially going through some of these changes that we’ve endured over the last year. Um, so we’re very grateful to MSU FCU for opening up their campus to allow participants to come and have some normalcy and run, walk, bring their families and, you know, Kind of go through a 5k course or 10 K course, just like they have come accustomed to in the past, through our event and we really hope that next year we’ll be in the situation where we can bring everybody back together for our typical large in-person event, um, hope that the community wellbeing and health and safety are back towards normal. Um, I think we can all hope for that. So, um, but yeah, aside from that, we’re just really grateful for the opportunity.

Connie Rahbany: I agree with you there. Well, Carolyn, I want to thank you so much for speaking with me today.

Carolyn Hurst: Yeah. Thank you so much for having me.